Wednesday 16 October 2019

Alleged forged DPP letter was 'bad quality photocopied document', forensic expert tells detective's trial

Garda Catherine McGowan
Garda Catherine McGowan

Nicola Donnelly

A forensic expert has told the trial of a detective accused of forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions that the letter was a “bad quality photocopied document.”

Inspector Michael Moore, who has completed forensic training courses with the US Secret Service and London Metropolitan Police and has  20 years experience in the forensic field, testified that he was asked to determine if the letter, dated January 14, 2004, allegedly from the office of the DPP, was genuine or if it was produced using parts of other documents.

Wicklow detective Garda Catherine McGowan (48), who is based at Bray Garda Station, has pleaded not guilty to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda Station and at Harcourt Street Garda Station between June 21 and 22, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), dated January 14, 2009.

The prosecution allege Gda McGowan forged the letter to “hoodwink” gardaí who were reviewing whether she had acted properly in investigating allegations of sexual abuse by a priest of a teenage girl.

The letter read: “Dear Sir, I (illegible) to yours. In (illegible) the statement of the complainant…could not possibly form the basis of a prosecution given that the complainant’s allegation of rape is only conjecture.”

Insp Moore told Alex Owens SC, prosecuting, he found three different fonts used in the letter; there were misalignments on the left hand side and scan lines to suggest at least two other documents were used to produce the letter.

“The scan lines, or shadow lines, suggest a cut document was placed on a photocopier to get an image,” said Insp Moore, adding that it suggests three documents were used to produce the letter.

He said he used a transparent copy of another letter he was given which matched exactly to the top part of the letter in question. He said this means that another letter was used to create the top part of the allegedly forged letter.

He said he performed the same exercise with another letter he was given and found the bottom half matched the letter in question.

He said a photocopied letter dated April 2, 2009 purported to be signed by a superintendent stationed at Bray, was examined by him in a similar way.

He found that this document had misalignments to the left hand side, that there were scan lines on it to show more than one document was used to produce it and that deposits on the document from the photocopier matched those of the photocopied letter of January 14, 2009.

“Any dirt on the glass of a photocopier will come out as toner deposits on the document,” explained Insp Moore.

He said when he overlaid both documents the common imperfections of toner deposits matched exactly.

“This proves that both documents were produced on the same photocopier,” he said.

Under cross-examination, he told defence counsel Patrick Marrinan SC that the letters were “bad quality photocopied documents.”

He agreed with Mr Marrinan that he had ascertained that both documents were run off the same photocopier and that they were “probably copied at the same time or close enough to the same time.”

The trial continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of six men and six women.

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